Empowering the Freelance Economy

Hybrid working Study: “it’s Exhausting Us”

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Almost 50% of professionals claim ‘hybrid working’ is not fit for purpose

  • 63% of companies have adopted hybrid-work models
  • 40% of employees are yet to hear about their future way of working
  • 55% of employees claim hybrid working has resulted in more ‘intense’ working days
  • 42% of employees said they will quit if remote working is entirely removed
  • 75% of 18-26yrs state that the workplace is their number one source of meaning and social connection

Two-thirds of companies (63%) have adopted or are in the process of implementing a hybrid-work model, yet 40% of professionals have stated that their employer’s hybrid working arrangements need to be improved, according to a new report from recruiter Robert Walters – A Guide to Hybrid Working: Obstacles and Solutions – which surveyed 2,000 UK professionals in order to identify the symptoms of dysfunction in hybrid working.

In fact, 55% of workers feel that their current hybrid arrangement does not go far enough to help bring a well-needed balance back to their home and work life – with many professionals claiming that the hastily constructed working model has led to more intense working days, brought on by the requirement to now fulfil both face-to-face and virtual meetings.

These concerns have also crossed over to the contractor economy through client expectations.

Why is the hybrid working model creating burnout?

Chris Poole, Managing Director of Robert Walters UK

According to the report, the under-researched and under-tested new hybrid working model has resulted in the UK workforce feeling overworked (54%) and exhausted (39%). 

“As we move toward the easing of most restrictions in the UK, it feels like the ‘race is on’ for employers to set their working style in stone,” said Chris Poole, Managing Director of Robert Walters UK.

“In the past 18 months we have seen numerous corporations make firm statements about the return to office – even within the same sector such as financial services, where the stance differs significantly from firm to firm.

“Whilst the switch to remote working was almost instant, we need to appreciate that was out of necessity. The return to work should be gradual – employers and employees alike should use this year to test a variety of working styles from hybrid-working to the removal of a 9-5 in favour of choosing hours based on project load.

“Businesses and professionals alike have a unique opportunity to form a new way of working – which if done right and carefully thought through could bring about greater efficiencies, higher productivity, more creativity, lower costs and overall improvement in wellbeing, morale and subsequently employee turnover,” said Poole.

Post-pandemic working in limbo

Many employees are still in the dark about their employer’s plans for post-pandemic working – with 40% stating they are yet to hear about any vision, and a further 28% claiming that what they’ve heard remains vague.

The Robert Walters report

Chris Poole adds: “Communication is the key to solving many workplace grievances – and in times of change or upheaval, such as the last year, we would have expected all good employers to be regularly communicating with their staff.

“For management who aren’t receiving much guidance from their superiors, I would encourage them not to be nervous to take matters – to an extent – into their own hands.

“Don’t be afraid to inform your team that there is no solid confirmation on the new way of working, give flex to your team so that they can make their own working arrangement suiting their needs, and reassure them that there will be more guidance soon but that you are happy with how they are performing. Now more than ever your team will be understanding of the uncertainty – however, this will become increasingly more frustrating if there is zero dialogue between management and employees,” he suggested.

Employees have the upper hand around flexi-working

One thing is for sure, employees certainly have the upper hand when it comes to discussions around flexible working. In fact, an overwhelming 85% of UK professionals now expect as standard more flexibility to work from home post-pandemic – with 78% of professionals stating that they would not take on a new job until this was agreed on upfront with their prospective employer.

42% of employees stated that they would quit if their employer doesn’t offer remote working options long term.

Chris Poole said that it’s not surprising to hear the call for more office time given that 85% of professionals recorded a decline in their wellbeing in 2020.

Studies have found that employees working mainly from home were less likely to receive a bonus, get promoted or receive training than colleagues who spent more time in the workplace.

The Robert Walters research suggests that younger workers could be particularly impacted by the lack of time in the office, with 75% of workers aged 18-26 years (Gen Z) stating that the workplace is their number one source of meaning and social connection. In fact, 54% of Gen Z workers have said they are likely to leave their employer within 12 months if a workplace culture does not return.

“Our research shows that the diminishing social capital accessible through the hybrid or fully working from home model could turn the younger staffers into a ‘flight risk’, said Poole.

He said that talent retention is at its highest levels when employers invest time and effort in building and maintaining a workplace culture that prioritises social capital for employees.

Hybrid working tactics for hiring companies that may help boost productivity:

  • Upskill managers: Remember the adage, “Employees don’t quit jobs, they quit managers”. So, equip your managers with formal training and techniques to maintain productivity and innovation among their hybrid teams. The Robert Walters research suggests 30% of companies in Japan are already investing in such training.
  • Measure outputs: Organisations are typically good at measuring inputs, but many overlook the outputs. By measuring outputs, employers and employees gain a clear picture of productivity and can adjust their hybrid working arrangements accordingly. This also helps ensure high achievers are identified and rewarded – which improves talent retention.
  • Empower introverts: Some people feel more comfortable suggesting ideas online, rather than at in-person meetings. Apps such as Slack and Stormboard can enable brainstorming among remote workers.
  • Seize the moment: Spontaneous creativity can still happen when people aren’t in the same room. Working in a Google Doc allows colleagues to create together, simultaneously. And leaving video chat running while working remotely allows people to share ideas and thoughts as they come up.
  • Maximise in-person working: Optimise the time people spend together by creating flexible workplaces and spaces that encourage experimentation and collaboration. Consult your people during the office design, and your premises will become an asset that helps attract and retain talent.
  • Embrace new technology: Keep your eye on emerging tech solutions. For example, Zoom plans to launch a new Smart Gallery feature, using AI to allow three people in a physical conference room to appear on different cameras, giving equal time and opportunity for all participants to contribute their ideas.

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